North America Nebula
NGC7000 and the Cygnus wall

Venturing into Forax

North America Nebula

Colorful monochrome imaging of SHO data

The North America Nebula (NGC7000) is a vast and captivating celestial wonder, spanning an area more than ten times that of the full moon. Though too faint for our eyes to perceive, we can marvel at its ethereal beauty through the lens of photography. Capturing this breathtaking sight, however, demands specialized equipment and precise techniques (see the list below).

Equipment Used for Astrophotography

  • Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ6-R PRO
  • Camera: ZWO ASI 1600MM-PRO (cooled @ -10C)
  • Refractor: William Optics RedCat II 51mm F4.9 telescope
  • Filters: ZWO 1.25″ 7nm Narrowband H-alpha, OIII, SII filters
  • Focuser: ZWO New Electronic Automatic Focuser
  • Guidecam: ZWO ASI 120MM mini
  • Image acquisition and control: ZWO ASIAIR Plus WiFi
  • Post-processing: PixInsight and tutorial (see this link)

For my astrophotography, I rely on an equatorial mount with two main axes, RA and DEC (Sky-Watcher EQ6-R PRO, for instance). These axes, accompanied by a guiding camera, play a crucial role in tracking the stars, ensuring they don’t blur during long exposures. Additionally, an electronic focuser aids in maintaining focus, especially during the start of the sequence and in response to temperature fluctuations (which can necessitate (re)focusing).

Over time, I’ve improved on my process, employing a cooled camera and specialized filters. This combination allows me to capture crisp and intricate monochrome images, something almost essential in highly light-polluted city skies (although it is possible, as I’ve shown before). These monochrome frames become the foundation for mesmerizing (false) color images, using techniques like the Hubble palette, which projects SHO images onto RGB colors.

The Captivating Moments in Astrophotography

Astrophotography is filled with captivating moments that make this endeavor so rewarding. Firstly, the initial setup and calibration of all the equipment, including proper polar alignment of the mount and telescope, may seem daunting at first, but with experience, it becomes a relaxing routine. Secondly, framing the perfect target and planning the image sequence requires thoughtful consideration. Often, I decide in advance which target to image based on its location (north or south) and the current season.

One of the most profound moments is when the first raw image (e.g., 300s exposure) appears on the screen. Especially when I started this hobby, this was a crucial moment - the realization of producing an astrophoto of objects otherwise invisible, revealing their size and level of detail in the night sky.

And last but not least is the post-processing stage, where I meticulously refine the images, bringing out all the intricate details and creating awe-inspiring visuals. Here, the Forax false-color processing technique comes into play, adding an artistic touch and enhancing the vibrant colors of the nebula in a unique and captivating manner.

Witness the Beauty: The Cygnus Wall

If you’re curious about achieving such breathtaking results, like the captivating reds and blues in the Cygnus Wall, you can watch a tutorial here.

NGC7000 Forax colors

The North America Nebula is a truly awe-inspiring sight in the night sky, and I’m grateful to be able to share its beauty through the art of astrophotography.

Images: 300s exposures of H-alpha, OIII, SII. Darks, flats, and bias frames were also acquired in the same time-window as acquisition.

powerful pictures photo Astrophotography NGC7000